Opinion

Time for lawmakers to choose workplace freedom

An editorial from the Parkersburg News and Sentinel

PARKERSBURG, W.Va. — Workplace freedom could be one of the more important pieces of legislation implemented during the current session of the Legislature in West Virginia. In the most positive of terms, it has been described as a “game changer,” but one that was left on the table as so many other changes swept through last year.

Now, lawmakers have a chance to give Mountain State workers the freedom to choose whether they will become members and pay dues to a union, while inspiring unions to refocus on being better performers for their members – returning to the mission upon which they were founded in the first place.

Workplace freedom does not prevent workers from joining unions, nor does it stop collective bargaining. In fact, it does nothing directly to unions. It simply gives workers the opportunity to decide for themselves.

For example, had workplace freedom been in place over the past eight years, it would have given coal miners the choice about whether to pay dues to the United Mine Workers of America, which lent heavy support to President Barack Obama during two elections. Those miners have since paid the price for Obama’s war on coal and reasonably priced electricity.

Safety laws, and their enforcement, would also remain untouched by workplace freedom.

Supporters of the law point out states in which workers have a choice about union membership are much more likely to be on the radar of companies looking for new locations. When workers have the right to choose, it brings new business – new jobs. A West Virginia University study showed both employment growth rates and gross domestic product growth rates are higher in workplace freedom states than in those where workers do not have the right to choose.

Yes, workplace freedom will mean unions will be held more accountable for listening to and serving their members. That, too, is a good thing. In fact, Indiana, after becoming a right-to-work state, saw an increase in union membership of 50,000 workers.

Lawmakers in West Virginia know it is time to take away this obstacle to bringing new economic opportunities across our borders. Mountaineers are always free. It is high time that freedom was extended to the workplace.

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